Last week in my blog I referred to codependence as a sleeper topic. I have said this before and realize I want to say a bit more about what I mean by this.
I call codependence a sleeper topic, because it does not receive the time and attention that many other topics related to addictions receive. When I look through the brochures and booklets listing sessions offered for addiction and mental health conferences, there are not many sessions on codependence, if any at all. There may be a few sessions offering information for helping families living with addictions, but the deeper issue of loss of self in someone else is seldom addressed.
I have even had someone say to me in reference to conference planning, Oh, we did codependence last year.
Would we say that about offering sessions on helping the substance addict to recover or on strategies for relapse prevention? — Oh, we did that last year.
I know that codependence remains unclearly defined and can be over-used. I also know some academic work is being done to develop assessment tools to better define codependence and thus be able to study it better.
In the meanwhile, loss of self in someone else remains an important clinical dynamic which I believe needs consistent, valued attention from each of us in these fields of mental health and addictions.
We can encourage people to do something for your self or just tell them ‘no,’ but the individual being coached to do this probably needs some deeper work within his or her self in order to be able to make this profound change.
Yes, this is a profound change, to be able to consider and assert self in the face of someone else’s addiction, dysfunction, or neediness.
Untreated codependence can lead to many things, including anxiety, depression, and relapse. I will write about each of these topics in my next blogs.
In the meanwhile, I will continue to help wake us up on this topic. There are some strong voices in our fields that have gone before me and sounded the alarm to wake us up to codependency. I applaud them and join them.